The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

To Mr. Hobs
from Pindarique Odes  [VI.],  Poems (1656; editor's copy)

       VAst Bodies of Philosophie
            I oft have seen, and read,
            But all are Bodies Dead,
       Or Bodies by Art fashioned;
    I never yet the Living Soul could see,
            But in thy Books and Thee.
       'Tis onely God can know
    Whether the fair Idea thou dost show
    Agree intirely with his own or no.
            This I dare boldly tell,      10
    'Tis so like Truth 'twill serve our turn as well.
    Just, as in Nature thy Proportions be,
    As full of Concord their Varietie,
    As firm the parts upon their Centre rest,
    And all so Solid are that they at least
    As much as Nature, Emptiness detest.
1    Long did the mighty Stagirite retain
    The universal Intellectual reign,
2    Saw his own Countreys short-liv'ed Leopard slain;
3    The stronger Roman-Eagle did out-fly,      20
    Oftner renewed his Age, and saw that Dy.
4    Mecha it self, in spight of Mahumet possest,
    And chas'ed by a wild Deluge from the East,
    His Monarchy new planted in the West.
    But as in time each great imperial race
    Degenerates, and gives some new one place:
            So did this noble Empire wast,
            Sunk by degrees from glories past,
    And in the Schoolmens hands it perisht quite at last.
            Then nought but Words it grew,      30
            And those all Barb'arous too.
       It perisht, and it vanisht there,
    The Life and Soul breath'd out, became but empty Air.
    The Fields which answer'd well the Ancients Plow,
    Spent and out-worn return no Harvest now,
    In barren Age wild and unglorious lie,
            And boast of past Fertilitie,
    The poor relief of Present Povertie.
       Food and Fruit we now must want
       Unless new Lands we plant.      40
    We break up Tombs with Sacrilegious hands;
            Old Rubbish we remove;
    To walk in Ruines, like vain Ghosts, we love,
1       And with fond Divining Wands
            We search among the Dead
            For Treasures Buried,
       Whilst still the Liberal Earth does hold
    So many Virgin Mines of undiscover'ed Gold.
1    The Baltique, Euxin, and the Caspian,
    And slender-limb'ed Mediterranean,      50
    Seem narrow Creeks to Thee, and only fit
    For the poor wretched Fisher-boats of Wit.
    Thy nobler Vessel the vast Ocean tries,
       And nothing sees but Seas and Skies,
       Till unknown Regions it descries,
    Thou great Columbus of the Golden Lands of new Philosophies.
       Thy task was harder much then his,
       For thy learn'd America is
       Not onely found out first by Thee,
    And rudely left to Future Industrie,      60
       But thy Eloquence and thy Wit,
    Has planted, peopled, built, and civiliz'd it.
            I little thought before,
       (Nor being my own self so poor
       Could comprehend so vast a store)
[1]       That all the Wardrobe of rich Eloquence,
       Could have afforded half enuff,
       Of bright, of new, and lasting stuff,
    To cloath the mighty Limbs of thy Gigantique Sence.
[2]    Thy solid Reason like the shield from heaven      70
            To the Trojan Heroe given,
    Too strong to take a mark from any mortal dart,
    Yet shines with Gold and Gems in every part,
    And Wonders on it grave'd by the learn'd hand of Art,
              A shield that gives delight
              Even to the enemies sight,
    Then when they're sure to lose the Combate by't.
    Nor can the Snow which now cold Age does shed
            Upon thy reverend Head,
    Quench or allay the noble Fires within,      80
            But all which thou hast bin,
            And all that Youth can be thou'rt yet,
            So fully still dost Thou
    Enjoy the Manhood, and the Bloom of Wit,
    And all the Natural Heat, but not the Feaver too.
[1]    So Contraries on Ætna's top conspire,
    Here hoary Frosts, and by them breaks out Fire.
    A secure peace the faithful Neighbors keep,
    Th'emboldned Snow next to the Flame does sleep.
            And if we weigh, like Thee,      90
            Nature, and Causes, we shall see
            That thus it needs must be,
    To things Immortal Time can do no wrong,
    And that which never is to Dye, forever must be Young.

Click here for a facsimile sequence of Cowley's elaborate prose notes; the verse text has been normalized in the same way as Cowley's "Hymn to Light."
Frontispiece, Hobbes' Leviathan // Pindarique Odes Preface  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  /   Return to The Works on the Web